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VIDEO: US military’s first Hindu chaplain December 12, 2011

Returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan often struggle with readjusting to civilian life, health issues, and guilt.

Until recently, the 1,000 or so Hindus serving in the US military – and their families – lacked a military confidant who understood their religion and culture.

But now Captain Pratima Dharm has been appointed as the US military’s first Hindu chaplain.

She says her position is significant not just to her military congregation, but also to the religion’s one billion global followers.

Photos: AFP/Getty Images, ThinkStock, and courtesy Pratima Dharm

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US politics live: Herman Cain denies endorsement rumours December 6, 2011

Good morning: Herman Cain may have crashed out of the Republican presidential nomination contest but now the battle begins for his followers, donors and supporters, orphaned by Cain’s decision to drop out.

Cain is said to be holding a press conference at 2pm today – supposedly to announce who he is endorsing – although Cain’s chaotic campaign appears once again to be in two minds about what is actually happening, including whether Cain will endorse anyone and whether the press conference will actually take place at all. So no change there.

In other political news, soi-disant Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich will make a visit to Donald Trump in New York City, as controversy swirls over Trump’s plan to hold a Republican candidates debate in Iowa on 27 December.

And with exactly a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich launches his first television ad in the Hawkeye State as a new poll shows him leading, and Mitt Romney suffers a backlash from his “Mittless protection programme” campaign strategy.

10.11am: Now Fox News is quoting “reports” that there will be no Herman Cain endorsement today. Why does that not surprise me?



Donald Trump. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

10.26am: Earlier this morning serial self-publiscist Donald Trump got into a verbal tussle with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that was – how can we put this? – not the highest point in either man’s career.

Part of the issue was Trump’s vanity Republican presidential debate supposedly scheduled for 27 December – although criticism from within the Republican base may mean it never actually happens, which would be a loss to the gaity of the nation.

So far Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul have said they will not appear. Huntsman – who appears to be enjoying a mini-revival – appeared on Fox News just now, and said à propos of Trump’s debate:

I’m not going to kiss his ring, I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy.

That’s not image we need on a Monday morning, Jon Huntsman.

10.34am: Cruel, cynical journalists are pointing out that Newt Gingrich’s meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower is conventiently next door to Tiffany’s. Which could be handy:

In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

10.43am: Will the Trump debate happen? Karl Rove isn’t happy at the idea, and blasted the concept in a Fox News interview this morning, picked up by Mediaite:

It’s really odd. Here’s a guy [Trump] who is saying, I’m going to endorse one of you and that gives him leverage … more importantly, what the heck are Republicans candidates doing showing up to a debate with a guy who says, ‘I may run for president as an independent’? I think the Republican national chairman should step in and say, we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing….

And anyway, says Karl Rove, nobody will watch a political debate on 27 December.

11am: What is going on in Iowa? This is the most interesting news piece of the day – an excellent Roll Call piece explaining that the 2012 Iowa ground operations are a shadow of the frantic activity that marked 2008:

Presidential candidates have minimally organized their Iowa campaigns — if they’re organizing at all. One month before the Jan. 3 caucuses, Iowa veterans expect one of the most unpredictable, nontraditional caucuses in recent history.

“To be sitting here on Dec 1 with no campaign announcing a 99-county chair organization is mind-boggling,” said Tim Albrecht, a veteran of the caucuses and spokesman for Governor Terry Branstad, who has not endorsed a candidate. “That’s the first thing you check off on your organizational checklist. This is the clearest, most glaring indication of just how wide open the Iowa caucus is at this point.”

Not a single presidential candidate has opened more than one office in the Hawkeye State. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who polls show is a frontrunner in the race, just opened his first Iowa office, a headquarters based in Urbandale.

That is amazing. So here’s my prediction: Ron Paul will win the Iowa caucus on 3 January. You read it here first, or first-ish. The reason being: winning caucuses requires a huge administrative effort: lots of staff, lots of volunteers and lots of effort. From what I can tell, Ron Paul is the only one with all three in Iowa right now.

And also: hats off to Roll Call for doing some reporting on ground, rather than sucking their thumbs in their NYC or DC offices.

11.08am: Quote of the day from the Roll Call reporting on Iowa mentioned below. It comes from Chuck Laudner, said to be a Santorum supporter and “longtime Iowa operative”:

I would remind people that this is a caucus, not a primary. And the caucus is on January 3, after a three-day, federal, drunken holiday.

11.26am: So, Newt Gingrich to be the Republican nominee? Not according to those who know Newt well – such as Republicans who served in Congress under Gingrich’s leadership a million years ago in the 1990s.

Tom Coburn, now the Republican senator from Oklahoma, was first elected to Congress as part of the 1994 wave of “Contract With America” Republicans and served in the House under Speaker Gingrich. He’s unleashed this killer quote:

His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president. I am not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.

Zing.

11.48am: The Daily Beast gets an interview with Ginger White, the former lady friend of Herman Cain. It’s a typically tasteful, restrained piece of Daily Beast reporting:

White said that over the years, her arrangement with Cain took an emotional toll. “One time we were having sex, and I was looking up at the ceiling, thinking about, ‘What am I going to buy at the grocery store tomorrow? What am I going to do with my kids tomorrow?’” she recalled.

12.03pm: Non-career politician (prior to 2001) Mitt Romney likes to boast of his success at Bain Capital as part of his resume as a private sector “job creator”. The Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at Romney’s record there:

Four of the 10 companies Bain acquired declared bankruptcy within a few years, shedding thousands of jobs. The prospectus shows that Bain investors profited in eight of the 10 deals, including three of the four that ended in bankruptcy.

Interesting sidenote, in light of the fact that Herman Cain’s CV highlight was as head of Godfather’s Pizza, is this:

The firm’s largest investment was its 1999 buyout of Domino’s Pizza, into which Bain put $188.8m, eventually reaping a fivefold return.

So after Cain was head of Godfather’s Pizza, Romney was de facto head of Domino’s Pizza? Basically the 2012 Republican nomination was a re-run of the late 1990s pizza wars.

12.21pm: No news on Herman Cain’s endorsement today. The New York Times’s Caucus blog talks to the lonely, orphaned supporters of Herman Cain in Iowa, now floating in political purgatory:

Jeff Jorgensen, the Republican chairman in Pottawattamie County, who endorsed Mr Cain, said the main priority was finding a viable candidate who can defeat Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.

“We are definitely trying to stop the steamrolling Romney machine,” Mr Jorgensen said. “It’s not that we don’t like him – he’s a formidable candidate. But we don’t think he espouses the conservative values we’d like to see in our nominee.

12.42pm: Here’s that Donald Trump interview-cum-slagfest with dear old Chuck Todd on MSNBC today.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Donald Trump doesn’t take no for an answer. Or Yes. Or anything.

12.55pm: Roll the “breaking news” screen splash: President Obama – remember him? – is to make a statement at 1.30pm ET. We think it’s about a compromise deal with Republicans over the payroll tax. Or it could be to appoint Herman Cain as Secretary of State. Who knows? Actually we know and it’s the former.

1.25pm: While we are waiting on President Obama to do some actual presidenting, here’s Newt Gingrich’s new campaign ad now running in Iowa:

“Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past,” says cuddly Uncle Newt, adding: “I don’t believe that.” Who are these “some people” Newt?

Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner notes: “the one-minute spot includes a dreamy, vaguely upbeat flute-driven song that sounds identical to the one that plays when Sam returns to the Shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings.”

Insert your own geeky Lord of the Rings reference here comparing Newt to Saruman or something:

Once he was as great as his fame made him. His knowledge was deep, his thought was subtle, and his hands marvelously skilled; and he had a power over the minds of others. The wise he could persuade, and the smaller folk he could daunt.

There’s also a Gladiator reference in there. Anyway, Newt’s wasting his time with LOTR’s references. Everyone knows Ron Paul has got that fanbase sewn up.

1.36pm: Slate’s David Weigel follows up on Senator Tom Coburn’s attack on Newt Gingrich by reading Coburn’s book about the 1994 Republican revolution, Breach of Trust. He finds a few gems of Newtophobia:

Before the government shutdown we thought Newt Gingrich was invincible,” writes Coburn. “After the shutdown, however, he was like a whipped dog who still barked, yet cowered, in Clinton’s presence.

Get that quote into an attack ad, pronto.

1.45pm: Meanwhile, here’s a rocking ad from the Ron Paul campaign, which appears to be aimed at the crucial 15-year-old male demographic:

As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake notes: “The only thing missing from this Ron Paul ad as Denis Leary as narrator and more Ford trucks.” Indeed. Someone should sue.

2.01pm: So we had the two minute warning for Obama to appear … about 10 minutes ago.

2.08pm: Another two-minute warning for Obama to start speaking at the White House briefing room.

2.10pm: Obama appears, finally. CNN has lost the sound feed.

Obama says he wants to extend the payroll tax cut, to “provide security for middle class families” by adding around $1,000 for the average working family. His jobs package would extend and widen the payroll tax cut, taking the benefit to $1,500 a year – but Republicans won’t join him:

I know there are plenty of Republicans who have sworn never to raise taxes … How come the only time there’s a catch is when it comes to middle class families?

Obama says he is willing to work with Republicans for tax cuts “in a responsible way”. But in a surprise move, it appears the Republican proposals are “irresponsible”. Obama is also calling for extending unemployment insurance for long-term out of work

In what can only be pure coincidence, Obama’s delayed statement happened to coincide with the start of the Newt Gingrich-Donald Trump joint press conference. Fancy.

But even after Obama has finished, Fox News isn’t cutting over to Gingrich/Trump.

2.20pm: Sensible Republican operative Mike Murphy tweets his foreboding about the Donald Trump debate:

GOP candidates would be foolish to show up at Trump’s clown circus/debate. Walk away…

Obviously as a journalist I hope the Trump debate goes ahead. As a human being, not so much.



Herman Cain announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign. Photograph: John Adkisson/Reuters

2.42pm: So Herman Cain will be making no endorsement today, according to the man himself:

I am not endorsing anybody today or in the very immediate future. I can’t say I won’t endorse, but not in the immediate timeframe.

That’s from MSNBC, which listened into a conference call between Cain and his soon-to-be former staff members:

Cain’s plans for the next chapter of his career were quickly followed by an attempt to directly address accusations that he sought to promote his recently-published book while campaigning, or perhaps host a cable news television show in the future.

“That is not my motivation,” he said. “I did not choose to run for the president of the United States to advance my own self.

By the way, Cain sent out an appeal for donations from his supporters the day before “suspending” his campaign.

3.03pm: Currently trending on Twitter – #GOPMuppetHearings:

Mr Grover, who, exactly are the monsters at the end of this ‘book’ that you keep warning us about?

3.18pm: Exciting news for West Wing fans:

Exclusive: The upcoming HBO drama about cable news from The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin finally has a name. TVNewser has learned that HBO is expected to call the series Newsroom.

Sorkin’s series follows fictional cable news anchor Will McCallister (Jeff Daniels) and his “News Night” staff at the fictional cable news channel UBS.

Not sure that the Swiss investment bank UBS will be delighted. Or the BBC’s Newsnight, for that mater. But otherwise: high pressure TV environment … hmm, shades of Studio 60 anyone?



Newt Gingrich hearts Donald Trump. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP

3.28pm: So Newt Gingrich met Donald Trump today, with Newt making industrial-grade sucking noises to attract Trump’s endorsement, as if that’s of any value.

The two held a press conference – well, they talked into some TV cameras – afterwards, according to AP, where Gingrich defended his decision to take part in Trump’s vanity-debate later this month:

This is a country that elected a peanut farmer to the presidency. This is a country that elected an actor who made two movies with a chimpanzee to the presidency. Donald Trump is a great showman; he’s also a great businessman. I think one of the differences between my party and the other party is we actually go to people who know how to create jobs. We need to be open to new ways of doing things.

For his part Trump defended Gingrich’s recent remarks that poor children should be working part-time cleaning toilets in schools:

I thought it was a great idea. We’re going to be picking 10 young wonderful children and make them ‘apprenti’. We’re going to have a little fun with it.

See, Newt Gingrich? You meet with Donald Trump and all he does is launch a new reality TV show.

3.38pm: Politics in Vermont is always slightly different to the rest of America:

The state of Vermont threw its support Monday behind a folk artist whose T-shirt business is being threatened by the nation’s second largest chicken restaurant chain because of his use of the phrase “eat more kale.”

Governor Peter Shumlin said that state would do all it could to help Bo Muller-Moore raise money to defend his small business, and by extension all Vermont small businesses and local agriculture, against what they both see as “corporate bullying” by the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A.

4.03pm: AP reports that the White House is backing its ambassador to Belgium, accused by some – including Mitt Romney – of downplaying anti-semitism in a recent speech. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said today that Howard Gutman would remain in his post in Brussels.

Here’s the transcript of Gutman’s remarks:

What I do see as growing, as gaining much more attention in the newspapers and among politicians and communities, is a different phenomena. … It is the problem within Europe of tension, hatred and sometimes even violence between some members of Muslim communities or Arab immigrant groups and Jews. It is a tension and perhaps hatred largely born of and reflecting the tension between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East over the continuing Israeli-Palestinian problem.

It too is a serious problem. It too must be discussed and solutions explored. No Jewish student – and no Muslim student or student of any heritage or religion – should ever feel intimidated on a University campus for their heritage or religion leading to academic leaders quitting in protest. No high school or grammar school Jewish student – and no Muslim high school or grammar school student or student of any heritage or religion – should be beaten up over their heritage or religion.

4.13pm: The National Review also thunders against the Trump debate idea, calling it a “sideshow”:

We had hoped that after the brief and frivolous publicity stunt Trump branded as exploration of a presidential run, there would be no further occasion to rehearse the many ways in which his sometime association with the Republican party hurts the conservative cause. So we’ll keep it brief: Trump is a tax-hike-supporting, missile-defense-opposing, universal-health-care-advocating, eminent-domain abusing, Schumer-Weiner-Rangel-Reid-donating, long-time-pro-choice economic protectionist who in 2008 called George W. Bush “evil” and lauded president-elect Barack Obama as a potentially “great president” who would “lead by consensus.

4.20pm: Oh dear. It appears that former vice president Dan Quayle is endorsing Mitt Romney. Yes, that’ll do it.

Republican officials on Monday told The Associated Press that Quayle plans to announce his support for the former Massachusetts governor Tuesday afternoon.

Romney has an event scheduled Tuesday in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where Quayle has a home.

4.35pm: The National Journal breaks down the latest Gallup poll of the Republican candidates and concludes that only Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich pass the voters’ acceptability threshold, in effect making this a two-horse race from now on:

Romney and Gingrich are the only two candidates that Republican primary voters believe would be acceptable presidential nominees. Gingrich holds a narrow, but significant advantage over Romney on this front, with 61% viewing him as acceptable, with 54% viewing Romney acceptably.

Polling figures can change, as we have seen so far.

5pm: Time to wrap things for the evening – which means Herman Cain will probably endorse Donald Trump for president at 5.01pm ET. In which case, we’ll have to cover it tomorrow when Cain retracts the endorsement and instead backs Hillary Clinton.

And as for Donald Trump: an online Fox News poll found that 31% said a Trump endorsement would make them less likely to vote for that candidate.

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Mapping New York’s hidden gems: how crowdsourcing is taking the city back November 9, 2011

Cities are more than concrete and traffic; look a little harder and you can find places to sit, and breathe and escape the world. But sometimes, you have to look really hard.

And that’s what The New York World has been doing for the past two weeks, ever since it went on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show to ask New Yorkers to help find the city’s “privately owned public spaces” – those small patches of indoor and outdoor real estate that property owners have committed to making available for public use. The world has heard of Zuccotti Park, thanks partly to the Occupy protests. But New York is dotted with these beautiful spaces.



Members of Occupy Wall Street sleep in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, New York. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Developers were given valuable exemptions to the city’s zoning rules in exchange for building and maintaining public areas. But building a space and letting the public use it are two different things. Michael Keller, behind the project, says there’s very little enforcement of the “public” part of these privately owned public spaces and equally little data about the shape they’re in. “Some, like Zuccotti Park, are very well maintained, while others, including Dag Hammerskjold Plaza are actually locked up.”

Responsibility for policing these areas falls on the the Department of Buildings, but there’s little evidence this is enforced.

The New York World got the official list of these spaces from the Department of City Planning and asked New Yorkers to check them out, see if they could get in and rate them. (By the way, if you want to get this dataset yourself, says Keller, watch out for some weirdness in the new NYC Socrata-powered data handling system – this dataset was corrupted in the process. “Notice how after “.zip” there’s a bunch of garbage characters. If you delete those characters and then unzip, it will function normally. It’s in Access format. We converted it to a csv, and added “New York, NY” to the address field for geocoding. We also had to spot check and clean up some odd geocoding behavior, which is wont to happen.”)


Bigger version

The result is this crowdsourced map – created using Fusion tables and with a couple of nifty features, including an address finder so people could easily see what sites are near their home or office. “If they’re on a mobile device, we added a GPS locator to make it easy to find nearby spaces. To give people feedback we added the progress bar and we’re sorting the responses to
prepare followup stories on what we find,” says Keller.

They’ve received over 150 submitted comments and 132 unique sites have been visited. “From those comments, we identified places where readers were denied access such finding locked gates or security guards asking for ID and turning people away,” says Keller.

Go to the site today and you will find an elevated acre at 55 Water Street in Lower Manhattan (where summer visitors can take in outdoor movies). But there’s also the Loftus garden at 275 W. 96th Street, which is only open one afternoon a week, leaving visitors to gaze longingly at its verdant website.

Taking the process one step further, the group have looked at city records to go over the details of the land deals and contacted management to ask them about policy when it comes to public use of space. “So far we’ve found some spaces that look like they’re in violation of their agreements with the city to provide this space and as more comments come, the more places we get to look at.”

Crowdsourcing tends to be used for huge datasets, partly to make them more manageable. But this shows how crowdsourcing can create meaningful data anywhere and with any project. And find some beautiful places along the way.

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Occupy Oakland general strike – as it happened November 3, 2011



An undated photo of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who remains in serious condition after he was hit by a police projectile at an Occupy Oakland protest. Photograph: Keith Shannon Photograph: Keith Shannon

12:00pm: Thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Oakland, California, for a general strike and mass day of action in support of the Occupy Oakland movement.

Workers, university students and school pupils are all being urged to rally near the Occupy camp, with banks and large corporations expected to be targeted by marches.

The strike aims to “shut down” the city, culminating with a march to the port of Oakland to prevent the transit of cargo.

Activity is expected to centre on 14th Street and Broadway – where Scott Olsen, a former marine, was hit and seriously injured by a police projectile last week.

Three demonstrations are planned, one at 9am local time (12pm ET), another at noon (3pm ET), and a third at 5pm (8pm ET). There are likely to be other, spontaneous “autonomous actions” – probably marches on banks and large corporations – taking place through the day.

Our reporter Adam Gabbatt is on the scene in Oakland and will be providing live updates. We also have reporters in New York at Occupy Wall Street and will be monitoring developments from other Occupy sites throughout the day.



Anti-war Iraq veterans march to Occupy Wall Street’s camp at Zucotti Park in New York. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

12.04pm: In New York, a veterans’ march in under way. Reporter Ryan Deveraux writes:

Men and women representing each branch of the US military have come together in New York City to stand in solidarity with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. Dozens of veterans chose to march from the Vietnam veterans memorial in Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park – re-named Liberty Square by demonstrators who set up camp there six weeks ago.

Military support for the movement was bolstered last week when Scott Olsen, a US marine who served two tours in Iraq, was critically wounded protesting in Oakland after police fired tear gas canisters and less-than-lethal rounds into the peaceful crowd.

Among those marching today is navy veteran Joshua Shepherd, who was standing next to Olsen when he was injured. The veterans, including men and women who served in a number of conflicts over many generations, began their demonstration using Occupy Wall Street’s signature call and response amplification system, the “human mic”, to declare themselves members of the so-called 99%.

12.34pm: My colleague Adam Gabbatt is in Oakland, and send this dispatch:

About 300 people turned out for the first rally of a day of action in Occupy Oakland.

Demonstrators have called for a general strike in the city, converging around three demonstrations at 9am, 12pm and 5pm, with marches on banks and the Port of Oakland planned throughout the day.

Numbers in the camp swelled overnight ahead of the strike, with all available space at the base of Frank H Ogawa plaza filled.

Among the newcomers was Kyle Vachon, who travelled from Occuy Chico on Tuesday night, arriving at 9pm. He was sitting at the Chico camp when a friend asked if he wanted to attend.

“He was like: ‘Dude, we’re going to Oakland, do you wanna go to Oakland?’,” Vachon said. “Then he said: ‘Get in the car.’”

Vachon travelled down with three others and stayed in a tent overnight. He was planning to march today.

At the 9am rally, protesters gathered in the crossroads at Broadway and 14th, at the corner of Frank H Ogawa plaza and where Scott Olsen, an Iraq war veteran, was injured during clashes with police on Tuesday 25 October.

In the warm sunshine protesters turned back traffic as they listened to speakers explain the plans for the day.

Occupy Oakland has pledged to march on any banks not supporting the strike – so, all banks – from 2pm, while demonstrators will march to and picket the Port of Oakland from 4pm, bidding to shut down shipping trade for the day.

Cat Brooks, Occupy protester and campaigner for justice for Oscar Grant – the 22-year-old black man killed by Oakland police at a Bart subway station – said the action was about “saying no to the 1% and yes to the 99%”.

“This is a warning, a test, to the 1%. We don’t need them; they need us.”

1.50pm: Here’s more from Ryan Devereaux in New York, watching the march of servicemen and women in support of Occupy Wall Street.

Led by Scott Olsen’s friend, Navy veteran Josh Shepherd, service men and women marched in two-by-two columns along sidewalks through Lower Manhattan.

As the march made its way into the financial district, a police barricade was moved aside and the veterans were allowed to move onto Broad Street. For what seems to be the first time since the demonstrations in New York City began six weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street protesters were allowed onto Wall Street itself.

With six New York City Police Department officers on horseback looking on, the procession paused in front of the New York Stock Exchange. There, Shepherd read a brief statement reiterating the oath members of the armed forces take to defend the US constitution. He then added: “We are here to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

At the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, the veterans stopped and observed a moment of silence for Scott Olsen, before passing the financial district’s iconic bull statue.

Turning in the direction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Liberty Square, the cadence of “Left, left, left, right, left,” was paused by a call-back chant of, “Hold your heads and hold them high, the 99 percent is passing by.”

The veterans arrived to the plaza amid cheers and applause. One young man described the passing troops as his “heroes.”

2.21pm: Back in Oakland, Adam Gabbatt reports that the first of three planned marches of the day is now over. Here’s a picture from earlier:



Occupy Oakland protesters march in the Californian city. Photograph: Adam Gabbatt/guardian.co.uk

Adam has been to the port of Oakland– there were reports that longshore workers were on strike this morning and trucks were not being let in: this isn’t true. Adam reports: “Everyone I spoke to here says is a longer line than usual, but as a result of workers walking out over safety issue yesterday.”

Cranes are operating, and trucks can be seen moving in and out of the port, Adam says.

2.37pm: This picture gives a sense of the scale of the protest in Oakland today.



Occupy Oakland protesters rally in front of the State of California building. Photograph: Ben Margot/AP

Adam Gabbatt estimates that a crowd of around 1,000 marched through the streets, bringing traffic to a halt. He reports that police appeared content to let the march take place, and did not make any attempt to halt it.

2.48pm: Here’s more detail from Adam Gabbatt in Oakland on the situation at the city’s port.

Rumours were rife this morning that Occupy Oakland’s general strike had scored an early victory by encouraging longshore workers to shut down the Port of Oakland.

Protesters plan to march to the port later today, but were told that it had already been shut by workers refusing to work – apparently as a show of support for the Occupy movement.

I headed down to the port at 10am to check out the rumours. They weren’t true. While there was a backlog of trucks in a line at the port, the line was moving, as were cranes, which were busy loading and unloading containers.

Workers said there was a longer line than usual, but this was due to workers having walked out yesterday over a separate issue relating to safe working practices.

Returning to #OccupyOakland, speakers at the corner of Frank H Ogawa plaza were already backtracking on earlier claims the port had closed, but warning it was only a matter of time.

“Earlier we told you the Port of Oakland was closed. The port of Oakland is not closed… yet,” Clarence Thomas, a Longshore worker at the port, told the 1000 strong crowd.

Another speaker said plans go ahead for a picket of the port this afternoon. Protesters plan to march to the waterfront from 4pm.

There was a police presence at the port at 10.30am, in the form of around 20 officers on motorcycles, but it was unclear if this was in preparation for the Occupy Oakland action.

2.52pm: Adam has been speaking to Emily Yates, a friend of Scott Olsen, who is still in hospital after being hit by a projectile apparently fired by police when they tried to clear the Occupy Oakland camp last week.


Yates is a fellow Iraq war veteran, having served two tours, and along with Olsen is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

She said Olsen had shown his support for the march by liking a post on Facebook. “[The post] said that we’re carrying thoughts of him today at the strike,” Yates said.

Yates added that Olsen was “aware of all the stuff that is happening, and he’s really stoked about it.” Yates is meeting fellow Iraq Veterans Against the War later today and will be part of the march to the Port of Oakland.


Emily Yates, a friend of Scott Oslen, speaks to the Guardian

3.30pm: In New York, Iraq war veterans, who had earlier marched along the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, have been addressing crowds at the Occupy Wall Street camp. Ryan Devereaux writes:

Gathered at the east end of the park e a young man in an Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirt, and fatigues kicked off a press conference for the demonstrators occupying the plaza.

“My name is Joesph Carter,” he said through the human mic, “I am a two-time Iraq war veteran and this is the only occupation that I believe in.

“For too long our voices have been silenced, suppressed and ignored in favour of the voices of Wall Street and the banks and the corporations. Their money buys them disproportionate influence over the decision-makers in Congress.

“For ten years we’ve been engaged in wars that have enriched the wealthiest one percent, decimated our economy and left our nation with a generation of traumatized and wounded veterans that will require care for years to come.”

4.24pm: In Oakland, another march is under way – this time, writes Adam Gabbatt, a loose confederation of the Oakland education association and general Occupy protesters.


John Robb, from Fairfax, California, managed almost singlehandedly to shut down a Chase bank branch.

“I got here at 10.30am, one my own,” Robb told the Guardian from his position seated in front of the entrance.

“Security kept pushing me away, but I stayed by myself for another 30 minutes. Then someone else arrived, they still pushed us away. Then the big march came past and we called everyone over, they came and the bank locked the doors.”

The march Robb referred to is a loose confederation of the Oakland education association and general Occupy protesters. Since leaving Frank H Ogawa plaza te march has increased to perhaps two thousand strong and is currently encamped outside Bank of America’s HQ.

Some protesters voiced their desire to smash the bank’s windows; other protesters stood in front of the bank and prevented them from doing so.



Occupy Oakland protester John Robb. Photograph: Adam Gabbatt/guardian.co.uk


5.45pm: Here’s a summary of events today.

Thousands of people have been marching in Oakland, California, where an attempt by police to break up an “Occupy” camp a week ago led to Iraq veteran Scott Olsen suffering a serious head injury. The day has so far passed off with good humour and without trouble. But the protesters’ desire to “shut down” the city with a general strike appear not to have materialised.

Rumours that the Port of Oakland had been shut down by the protests proved unfounded.
There were longer lines at the port after workers walked out yesterday over a separate issue relating to safe working practices. But most workers turned up for work today.

In New York, army veterans have marched through lower Manhattan to the Occupy Wall Street Camp at Zuccotti Park. The march passed off without incident, and veterans have been speaking in support of Olsen and the Occupy movement at Zuccotti Park.

9.30pm: Good evening, we’re re-opening our live coverage of the Oakland general strikes with reports coming through via Reuters that protesters have ”effectively shutdown” Oakland port operations. The Port has issued the following statement:


At this time, maritime operations are effectively shut down at the Port of Oakland. Maritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so.

10.02pm: Adam Gabbatt has filed this dispatch from the protest march.


Thousands joined the march to shut down the Port Of Oakland, protesters appearing to surprise themselves with the strength of the turn out.

As the march weaved through downtown Oakland it was difficult to assess size, but when protesters walked up the bridge to the port, affording the first opportunity to look back at the crowd, there were gasps and whoops.

The demonstration stretched some 300m, spanning six lanes of traffic, with little to no police presence for the first two hours.

Once inside the port protesters were welcomed by truck drivers hooting horns. The younger and more agile quickly scaled trucks, waving flags as thousands of protesters continued to walk into the main port area.

An impromptu, human mic facilitated, discussion decided the group would split into four groups, each picketing a separate gate or area.

I was with the last group to stop, who only did so when their path towards Bay Bridge – they havent decided yet whether to occupy it – was blocked by a line of 40 police officers in riot gear.

The bulk of the group – perhaps 500-600 people – remained 400m from the police line, chanting “We have achieved what we wanted,” but a trickle of about 30 marched on.

The smaller group stopped in front of the police line, and there was a (peaceful) impasse, before the police left without explanation.

Some 20 people marched on, toward Bay Bridge, while the bulk of the group remained 400m back, in the darkness.

The aim was to prevent Longshore workers getting into the port for the start of their 7pm shift. They seem to have achieved it.


10.16pm: The latest from @occupyoakland on the port shutdown: At port of America with 500 people Port is shut down people picketing in circles and chanting- cops down road are staying put

10.36pm: Here is the full statement from the Port of Oakland – contained within, a request for those marching to allow workers to get home to their families safely.


Oakland, Calif.— November 2, 2011 — At this time maritime operations are effectively shut down at the Port of Oakland. Maritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so.

Safety, security, respect and dignity for everyone remain of paramount importance. We continue to ask that everyone remain calm, respectful, and safe.

Specifically, we ask that the marchers allow port workers safe passage home. Please allow your fellow 99% to get home safe to their families.

The Port of Oakland is an economic engine: Through our activities and those of our tenants and customers we support over 73,000 jobs in our region and are connected to more than 800,000 jobs nationwide. These are jobs for the 99%.

11.08pm: Adam Gabbatt is now heading back to the main Occupy Camp.


Protesters were in place to blockade the port, in four separate groups, from 6pm. The plan was to block Longshore workers from getting to their 7pm shift, but some got impatient, chanting to “take the [bay] bridge” after hearing erroneous reports that the San Francisco occupy contingent had occupied their side.

The demands were tempered, and most protesters sat and waited – awaiting for confirmation from arbiters at the international Longshore workers union as to whether the port had officially closed. By 8pm this hadn’t come, and the crowd had halved in size.

I’ve just left the port and headed for the main Occupy Oakland camp. The fresh rumour is that there will be a march, or marches, at 10pm. Whether they will be peaceful, like most of the action today, or tainted by the violence that saw Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America all damaged this afternoon, remains to be seen.

11.20am: Police have said a pedestrian, identified by local media as a protester, was struck by a vehicle in downtown Oakland during the march and taken to a local hospital. There are varying reports as to the extent of the person’s injuries, but no official word as yet.

11.33pm: Some more on the situation regarding the protester hit by a car. This piece from the San Francisco Chronicle reports that two people were injured and both appeared to be conscious in hospital.

11.45pm: Following many false reports on twitter that a protester hit by a car had died, Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan confirmed they were taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

12.14am: Time for a summary of the latest this evening.

Police estimated that a crowd of about 3,000 gathered at the Port of Oakland by early evening. Some had marched from the California city’s downtown, while others had been bused to the port.

Occupy demonstrators forced a halt to operations Oakland’s port which is the fifth busiest port in the US, on Wednesday night.

In a statement put out by Oakland Port confirming the closure, officials said maritime area operations would resume “when it is safe and secure to do so.”

Acting Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said the pedestrian hit by a car was taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Coverage is now moving to a new blog. You can follow more Oakland updates on our keyword page here.

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Barbara Kent obituary October 21, 2011

It is in the nature of cinema that an actor who made her last film appearance more than seven decades ago, and who retreated from public view in the late 1940s, refusing photographs and interviews ever since, can still be appreciated on screen as young, as lovely and as fresh as ever. Barbara Kent, who has died aged 103, was one of the last surviving stars of the silent era. She appeared in the last great silent American film, Lonesome (1928), Paul Fejos’s masterpiece of urban poetry. Kent played Mary, a switchboard operator, who meets Jim (Glenn Tryon), a factory worker, in Coney Island. They spend the day together, fall in love, and then lose each other in the crowd. The simple tale of “little people” is raised by the sincerity of the performances and by the director’s expressive use of location, camera movement and montage.



Kent was offered a contract with Universal even though she had never acted before. Photograph: Clarence Sinclair Bull/Getty Images

Unfortunately, Universal Studios, to whom Kent was under contract, insisted on adding three stilted, incongruous talkie sequences to the film to demonstrate the newfangled sound technique. (There was already a music score and sound effects.) Despite allowances made for the crude recording system, Kent’s voice came over as rather tinny and there were fears that she, like other silent screen stars, might fall by the wayside. But with voice lessons, her career survived and she reached the peak of her popularity as Harold Lloyd’s girlfriend in his first two talkies, Welcome Danger (1929) and Feet First (1930).

She was born Barbara Cloutman in Alberta, Canada, and moved to California with her family in her teens. After winning the title of Miss Hollywood 1925, she was immediately offered a contract with Universal, although she had never acted before.

Her first role was as the only woman in Prowlers of the Night (1926), a western directed by Ernst Laemmle, the nephew of Carl Laemmle, the owner of Universal. In the same year, Kent was given fourth billing in Clarence Brown’s Flesh and the Devil, in which she played a 15-year-old girl, hopelessly in love with John Gilbert, who has eyes only for vamp Greta Garbo.

In No Man’s Law (1927), which starred Rex the Wonder Horse and Oliver Hardy in one of his rare non-comic roles as a villain, Kent is very cute, first seen in a pair of oversized pyjamas and then swimming in the “nude”, a scene that caused controversy despite the fact that she was wearing a flesh-coloured bathing suit.

She is the sweet inamorata of a football hero (Richard Barthelmess) in The Drop Kick (1927) and, in Modern Mothers (1928), of a playwright (Douglas Fairbanks Jr), who returns to her after a fling with her mother. Lonesome gave Kent a further boost, and she appeared in William Wyler’s The Shakedown (1929), a touching drama once thought lost and only recently rediscovered and restored, about a girl (Kent), a prize fighter and an orphan boy.

Kent entered the sound era in Welcome Danger. When they first meet, Kent, with her hair tucked back, in overalls trying to fix her broken-down car, is mistaken by Lloyd for a boy. Playing along, she later reveals her femininity, and they fall in love. Kent again showed her mischievous streak in Feet First, in which she is a secretary whom Lloyd, as a lowly clerk, mistakes for his boss’s daughter.

In Leo McCarey’s Indiscreet (1931), which the director himself described as lousy, Kent was effective as Gloria Swanson’s sister. She was an adequate Amelia Sedley in an inadequate, updated adaptation of Vanity Fair in 1932 and exuded kindness as Rose Maylie in the first talkie version of Oliver Twist, in 1933.

In 1932 she married Harry Edington, an agent who was to become, for a short period, an executive producer at RKO. When she saw herself slipping down the credits, she retired in 1935, aged 28. After Edington died in 1949, Kent married Jack Monroe, an engineer. Monroe died in 1998. Towards the end of her life, Kent lived in a retirement home in Sun Valley, Idaho, where most of her friends and neighbours were unaware that she was once a Hollywood star.

• Barbara Kent (Barbara Cloutman), actor, born 16 December 1907; died 13 October 2011

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